Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Report
Title Livelihood trajectories in Afghanistan
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL http://areu.org.af/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/1702E-Livelihood-trajectories-in-Afghanistan_evidence-​from-three-villages-in-Herat-Province1.pdf
Poverty levels in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 as assessed by the National Risk and Vulnerability
Assessments (NRVAs, see CSO, 2014) have remained largely unchanged since 2007-2008 (World
Bank, 2015). As the World Bank put it (World Bank, 2015: 6) this was ‘despite a massive increase in
international spending on military and civilian assistance, and overall strong economic growth and labor
market performance.’ These poor and in some cases worsening outcomes after more than a decade of
international investment raise major questions about the design and focus of that investment (Pain,
For the World Bank (2015: 8), the lack of poverty reduction could be accounted for by rising levels of
inequality, particularly at a regional level, which is a reflection of uneven donor funding, the
concentration of economic growth in the service sector which created the most jobs (albeit largely on
the basis of informal casual labour), and household vulnerability to a high level of shocks. Thus, ‘due to
the geographical targeting of aid and types of jobs that it generated, aid-led growth increased income
inequality and did not decrease poverty.’ With declining aid flows the World Bank argued that three new
policy directions in Afghanistan were needed to support inclusive growth and decrease poverty. These
required a focus on supporting the agricultural sector, ensuring greater equality of funding for public
goods across the country and providing targeted safety nets to protect the poor from shocks.
This report contributes an in-depth examination of the proximate and deeper causes behind Afghanistan’s
unchanging poverty rates, levels of food insecurity and improved access to services found by the World
Bank (2015), and assesses the policy measures offered to address these outcomes. It does so by drawing
on a longitudinal study of a panel of households called Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories (ALT). This
panel was established in 2002-2003 by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) in
partnership with seven non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and with European Commission funding
(Grace and Pain, 2004). A panel of 390 households was established in 21 villages across seven
contrasting districts in seven provinces with the objective of tracking their fortunes over time. The selected
provinces and districts reflected a variety of agro-ecology and economic circumstances. The aim of the
ALT research was to build an understanding of rural livelihood trajectories that was not specifically linked
to project interventions in an effort to see what they might tell us about the drivers of household-level
changes, the nature and degree of that change, and its effects on rural households’ wellbeing. It also
sought to bring to policy and programming practice an understanding of the context in which rural people
live so as to counter various preconceptions of what people in rural areas do and the focus on the delivery
of interventions. Thus the ALT study has aimed to bring an in-depth micro-level qualitative understanding
to complement and engage with the large-sample representative cross-sectional data of the NRVA. This
report examines household-level evidence from three villages in the Pashtun Zarghun district of Herat
province to assess changes in livelihood activities, access to services, and engagement with local-level

Related studies

Huot, Danielle, Adam Pain, and Ihsanullah Ghafoori. Livelihood trajectories in Afghanistan. 2016.
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